Novel Coronavirus Updates & Travel Guidance
Since the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first identified on December 31, 2019, there are currently at least 17,000 confirmed infected in the world. The rapid spread of the virus has surpassed the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). One of the latest countries to be affected by this new novel coronavirus is the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with a total infection of 5 people as per Feb 3, 2020, update.
Currently, according to a live update from the World Health Organization (WHO), the mortality rate of 2019-nCoV is estimated at around 2%, with total deaths of 564 people mostly in China. Compared to SARS and MERS with a mortality rate of 10% and 34% respectively.
The WHO stated the new coronavirus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, which means that practically and politically significant measures may be taken that include travel, trade, quarantine, screening, and treatment.
International Travel Guidance
As per January 27, 2020, update from WHO, international travel is still possible although entry and exit screenings are now implemented. However, public health authorities advise avoiding all nonessential travels to China at the moment.
The exit screening is conducted with the aim of detecting the infection earlier in symptomatic travelers while minimizing the risk of “exporting” the virus. Currently, exit screening includes:
- Temperature (with temperature 38 Celsius degree or higher)
- Interview of the person with pre-existing and/or existing respiratory conditions
- Directing symptomatic travelers to a medical examination
- Testing for 2019-nCoV
- Isolation and quarantine for confirmed cases
In addition to exit screening, entry screening is also applied in areas where cases are nonexistent. This is performed to reduce the general risk of the disease and seek early medical attention if symptoms occur.
Also, entry screening should be accompanied by risk communication messages (posters, leaflets, pamphlets, etc) to raise awareness and medical-care-seeking behavior.
Recommended Actions for Travelers
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises getting several vaccinations at least a month prior to travel.
Here are a few vaccinations that are recommended:
- Measles (from infants to adults)
- Influenza inactivated or influenza recombinant
- Hepatitis A
- Diphtheria (both infants and adults)
Additionally, paying more attention to daily consumptions, staying away from stray animals, as well as reducing exposure to germs may greatly help prevent the risk and exposure to the transmission.
It is currently very important to always take notes of local hospitals or doctors in the area that you are traveling to.
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The spread and development of vaccines against the COVID-19 pandemic herald its near end, but it will not happen overnight. In the meantime, continue to take precautions to protect yourself and others in everyday life and in travel.